In the hours before Cal Poly State University President Jeffery Armstrong announced he was indefinitely suspending official activities of all Cal Poly Greek fraternities and sororities, racially-inflammatory materials began showing up in buildings around campus.
Posters promoting diversity were also slashed and police were called to investigate at least one incident of a racial slur written on a bathroom wall.
In a Facebook public post Tuesday, Cal Poly Associate Professor Dr. Neal MacDougall shared images of posters promoting educators who work with undocumented students that had been slashed outside his office. A flyer had also been placed on his billboard, posing a question, "are all groups of humans the same sub-species or even the same species?"
Other flyers placed around campus showed imagery of global maps connecting skin tones to incidents of rape and homicides, as well as IQ. Other images showed images of gorillas in juxtaposition with images of a tribal African, next to an astronaut.
In his post, MacDougall said:
I know that Cal Poly President Armstrong has asserted that a racist culture does not exist at Cal Poly but it makes me wonder what kind of culture these images represent? All of this was centered around my office hallway this morning. I think we have to move beyond protecting the Cal Poly “brand” and start dealing with the Cal Poly reality.
Commenters on MacDougall's post wrote they had seen similar materials in other campus buildings.
Cal Poly spokesperson Matt Lazier said Wednesday morning the university is seeing many postings around campus:
These are desperate acts of a few who aim to spread hate and divide our community. In no uncertain terms, the university abhors and denounces hateful and racist speech and actions — they are inconsistent with our values at Cal Poly. We must use this time to reject hate and come together as a community to foster a constructive dialogue and begin the healing process. Any actions that do violate the university’s Time, Place and Manner Policy (CAP 140) or First Amendment rights — including threats of physical violence or harm, expression that constitutes criminal or severe harassment, or defamation — will result in discipline from the university, up to and including expulsion/termination, and potentially criminal charges if criminal laws have been violated.
"The slashing of the sign disturbed me. That's fundamentally a violent act," MacDougall later told KCBX News. "Without knowing me, in the university environment and coming to talk to me. I mean, that's what we're about."
MacDougall is involved with the California Faculty Union and is the campus sponsor for Students for Quality Education. KCBX News sat down with MacDougall Wednesday morning to discuss Armstrong's letter and the university's approach to diversity and free speech on campus. That interview will air during Issues and Ideas on KCBX, 90.1 FM, on Wednesday April 18, at 1 PM, and will be available in its entirety on our website.